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Full text of "Letter to John L. Carey, on the subject of slavery"

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178 Market street. 


Dodon, August 30, 1845. 
My dear sir, — 

When I addressed you in March last, very far was it 
from my thoughts to appear before the public, even in 
so good a cause as the one to which my letter had re- 
ference ; but as you have thought proper to publish 
that letter as introductory to your excellent remarks on 
Slavery in Maryland, I feel it to be due to you to ac- 
knowledge my acquiescence, and also to state distinctly 
my readiness to share fully the responsibility of the pub- 
lication. In calling your attention to this matter, it was 
equally far from my thoughts to excite angry feelings 
in any portion of our slaveholders, and never could I 
have dreamed that a charge of political design could be 
imputed to either you or myself in proposing the discus- 
sion of this question. Indeed I can not but hope, even 
now, that many who have so inconsiderately taken up 
this impression will, on second thought, do us more jus- 
tice, and ultimately will come to regard this question as 
one not only apart from all party strife, but intimately 
connected with the moral, social, and political welfare of 
the citizens of Maryland. In your remarks you have, 
in my humble opinion, stated fully all the possible ad- 
vantages belonging to the institution of Slavery; at the 
same time you have pointed out with clearness and force 
some of the strongest objections inherently connected 
with it ; I am therefore greatly at a loss to understand 
why exception should be taken to any thing contained in 
your publication. Indeed I have learned, within a few 
days, from a friend, that my letter has in fact given more 
dissatisfaction than your " Remarks." 

It is, sir, on this account, as well as for the reasons 
above stated, that I feel called upon to come out frankly 
to say what are my views and sentiments touching this 
matter, trusting to the good sense and good feelings of 
my friends and neighbors to receive in a proper spirit 
that which I am sure, if rightly understood, will find a 
ready response in the bosom of every one. Politics I 
have never meddled with, though no man can feel a 
warmer desire to witness the prosperity of his country, 
and especially of our own fair portion of the union, than 
myself. It is in consideration of the welfare and the 
happiness of this our own commonwealth, that I have 
been induced (contrary to the habits of my life) to com- 
municate to you my desire to see the subject of Slavery 
properly discussed and duly considered by those whom 
it most concerns. Convinced therefore, as I am, of the 
correctness of my motives, and of the truth of the prin- 
ciples advocated, I claim from those who have objected 
to my letter a fair and patient hearing. 

Is there a man in Maryland, is there a single man con- 
nected with slavery who does not feel its existence to be 
a curse upon our beautiful land ? Is there one who has 
not many a time, and oft, expressed a fond hope that he 
might live to witness the consummation of its extinction, 
and the entire exodus of the negro race from among us ? 
If there is such a man, I have never met with him here, 
however current such may be in latitudes more south. 
Indeed it is impossible for a man of sound judgment and 
feelings " to look on this picture and on that,' 1 to behold 
the power and prosperity of Pennsylvania and Ohio, for 
instance, in comparison with our own state, and not feel 
the deepest regret for our deficiencies. In doing so, the 
suggestion will naturally arise in his mind that some 
cause, powerful and all-pervading, must exist to produce 
so marked a difference of condition. While these states 
have rapidly progressed in population and domestic im- 
provements, Maryland, by much the elder member of the 
union, possessed of the finest location and climate in the 
world, and of as generous and intelligent a people as any 
state can boast of, has remained comparatively stationary. 

This we have the mortifying proof of in the last census 
which you quote, showing we have increased but a little 
more than one third for fifty years ; that in nine counties 
the white population has decreased by twenty thousand, 
and that our whole number of inhabitants would have been 
stationary had it not been for the great increase in the 
city of Baltimore, and the partial increase in four or five 

Is this or is it not in some way caused by slavery ? I 
call upon every one to ask himself the question. In my 
humble opinion it is, for it is a matter of common obser- 
vation that white laborers will not settle where slaves 
occupy the soil, however partially they may do so among 
free negroes. The white man shrinks from a union of la- 
bor with those who are regarded by their masters as an 
inferior race, and gradually he comes to regard labor it- 
self as degrading, and fit only for those whom heaven has 
stamped with a color darker than his own. And indeed, 
as you very properly remark, slave labor, protected and A, ^x^* - 
sustained by the capital and intelligence of the QBNML,"':is~a ^"* 

powerful opponent, however easily the white laborer 
may supplant the unsustained labor of the free negro ; 
hence probably the rationale of the loss of twenty 
thousand white inhabitants in the nine counties ; they 
could not or would not work with slaves, and have gone 
elsewhere. Every one knows that our climate and soil 
are congenial to the increase of blacks as well as whites, 
and the question is often asked, What becomes of the 
increase ? As regards the slaves, many have been sent 
to the south, and not a few have absconded. Of the free 
blacks, many have gone to the north, and some have gone 
to Africa; but as regards the whites, those who have not 
found homes in Baltimore, have emigrated to the far west 
to support themselves by honorable toil where labor is 
not regarded as a degradation. There is perhaps not a 
county in the state that has not, during the last fifty years, 
suffered this constant drain upon its white population, and 
it would not be extravagant to= presume that several hun- 
dred thousand inhabitants are wanting who should be now 
upon our soil. Let us reflect for a moment what would 

be the condition of our state if these her children had not 
become exiles from their homes. Would not our lands 
and water-courses have become tenanted and owned by 
them, and such other population as a free state draws to 
itself, so that, instead of the three hundred and sixteen thou- 
sand white inhabitants(the sole fruits of more than two cen- 
turies of occupancy and cultivation of our soil), we would 
most certainly have had at least double that number, and 
probably many more ? Who can contemplate such a 
probability and not feel the deepest regret ? Our taxes, 
now a burthen to the few, would be a mere circumstance 
to the many ; our state debt would in fact be comparative- 
ly nothing, and our credit would be as high as our honor 
deserves to have it. Land would be double its present 
value, and every man, from the manufacturer to the farmer, 
would feel his improved condition, and rejoice that all 
enjoyed alike. 

What landed man does not now feel the depressed 
state .j3.f_ real property ? We all see, when a farm is 
offererrfor sale, how long it hangs in the market even at 
a moderate price ; a moment's reflection will explain the 
reason ; it is because there are so few purchasers, so few 
farmers and yeomen in the country to create a competi- 
tion for land, and hence too the want of life and enter- 
prise in the large slaveholding sections of our state. It 
is not the want of capital ; the land is the capital ; many 
owners would be glad to rent their fields to industrious, 
intelligent tenants if they could be found, confident that 
a rent could be obtained at least equal to their present 
profits, and assuredly with far less trouble and anxiety. 
Who would not rejoice to see our land smiling with neat 
farm-houses and well cultivated fields, such as delight 
the eye of the traveller in almost every free state of the 
union? And who would not rejoice to behold public 
education, that blessing far beyond all mortal wealth, 
rising and expanding with every thing else, and shedding 
its influence upon all alike ? Then would we enjoy the 
greatest of blessings, that'tof being but one people, bound 
by the same ties and the same affections. But what do 
we behold instead of this desirable picture ? Extensive 

half-cultivated fields in many parts of the state, dilapi- 
dated negro log huts, a dirty, slovenly negro population 
on whom we can not bestow the blessings of education, 
and, in fact, whose happiness depends on their humility and 
their ignorance. But there is one more view of this sub- 
ject that we should not close our eyes upon ; it is the 
political effect of our paucity of numbers in regard to our 
national representation. Some few years since, with less 
population than we now possess, our number of repre- 
sentatives in the hall of congress was eight ; then the ratio 
of representation was about fifty thousand; now the ratio 
of representation is about seventy-two thousand, and our 
number of members is reduced to six. Before many years 
the ratio of representation will be raised to one hundred 
thousand, and it is much to be feared our representation 
will then be reduced to four, and this while the free 
states more especially are increasing in population so ra- 
pidly that, notwithstanding the augmenting ratio of re- 
presentation, they claim at each successive period an in- 
crease of representatives. Already the larger^states 
overshadow the smaller, and what will the consequence 
be when the disproportion is still greater ? Let us weigh 
this matter well, and let us examine and see whether we 
can not in our gallant little state do something to raise our 
white population to six or eight hundred thousand, that 
we may, among other advantages, at all times make a 
proud and a dignified presence in our national assembly. 

Confident am I, if my fellow-citizens will but calmly 
and kindly reflect upon all these things, they will see the 
whole question in the same light that I do, and, instead of 
spurning my suggestion, will generally admit that it is a 
consummation most devoutly to be wished for. 

I know the temper of my countrymen well ; they are 
rather hot and somewhat rash, but they are high-minded, 
just, and capable of the highest and noblest moral actions. 
It is well known there would have been but one opinion 
upon the subject of slaver^in Maryland, but for the in- 
sane interference of that paVljf that has inflicted, I may 
say, a longer servitude upon the negro. Until these fa- 
natics sprung up there was a large party openly foreman^ 


cipation, looking forward to it with pleasure, and ready 
to aid in every proper way that could secure the object. 
But since then, for most obvious reasons, they have re- 
treated from their position, and now maintain the strictest 
neutrality. But it seems to me the time has now come 
for restoring things to where they were some twelve or 
fifteen years ago ; that is, to allow emancipation to pro- 
gress by the natural course of circumstances, I mean at 
the pleasure of the slaveholder, unrestrained by legislative 
enactments or by popular prejudice, excepting always 
that degree of restraint which police government may 
render necessary. 

At first I fear this proposition will startle some of our 
good citizens, and they will exclaim against it ; but I beg 
them to pause and consider calmly the reasons and mo- 
tives of this suggestion, — policy, humanity, and self-inter- 
est. There can be no just ground for excitement or dis- 
pleasure in the business. If I am right in my views and 
sentiments, all parties must and will, in due time, come to 
agregtvith me. If I am wrong (and I am entirely willing 
to submit to the decision of public opinion), my sugges- 
tion will soon fall to the ground, and there will be an end 
of the matter. For what have we to dread from the 
abolitionists ? and as to the negroes, the poor timorous 
wretches feel and know our power too well to think of 
aught else than patient, humble submission. We have 
our foot upon their necks, and they can never rise until 
we give them leave; and, so long as we are compelled to 
hold them in slavery, they must be held with a strong rein 
and by a strong hand. As a man, I can not feel indifferent 
to the wants and sufferings of any portion of the human 
race ; and for those unfortunate beings bred amidst our 
domestic ties and relations, in common with most slave- 
holders, I feel all the compassion their situation calls for; 
but I have no scruple in avowing that I never will hesi- 
tate for one moment between their fortunes and the inter- 
ests of our own race, of those with whom I am connected 
by consanguinity and nalKpal identity ; and in this, let me 
now remark, consists the 'difference between a Maryland 
emancipationist and an abolitionist. The latter, by some 

morbid arrangement of his tastes and faculties, prefers the 
welfare of the negro to that of his own fraternity. The 
former prefers his own brotherhood, though never disin- 
clined to exercise benevolence towards the negro when it 
can be done without danger to those who are nearer and 
dearer. And this, sir, brings me to that part of your re- 
marks where you admonish us to be mindful of our duty 
in protecting and preserving this large and dependent 
family from the consequences of a rash philanthropy. 
You even express the opinion that slavery is the only 
means of saving them from utter annihilation, and you call 
it in fact the bulwark of the whole colored race, standing 
between them and destruction. 

Most undoubtedly, if it is a paramount consideration 
to preserve and perpetuate the negro race in the State of 
Maryland, (which may God, in his mercy, forbid,) no 
device could be more cunningly framed than this institu- 
tion, as it now exists among us. The children are care- 
fully nurtured until 10 years of age ; adults are seldom 
over-tasked ; at 60, or there about, they are for the most 
part allowed to relax their toil, and generally spend the 
residue of a long life in quiet and ease. The female es- 
pecially enjoys a health and constitutional vigor that 
those of her sex of gentle blood may reasonably admire 
and envy. All are well fed, and procreation thrives ac- 
cordingly. The hardships and sufferings incident to In- 
dian life, by which the numbers of this noble race are 
kept in check, our slaves are totally exempt from — and 
it can not be doubted that our State would ere this have 
been overrun by them, as by a plague of locusts, had not 
the redundancy been absorbed, from time to time, by the 
great demands of the South. Now, my dear sir, I must 
say, with due respect for your gentleness and humanity, 
that this view of Slavery does not present much likeli- 
hood of a speedy removal of the mass from our soil ; 
without which it is in vain to hope for any great or dis- 
tinguished improvement in our State, and which if w r e 
seriously contemplate, we must assuredly abandon the 
idea of protecting the colored race by the continuance of 
this institution; we must, in fact, allow them gradually 


to pass into a new form of society — into a state of exist- 
ence less calculated to preserve and increase their num- 
bers, and by which they will be brought to feel the in- 
fluence of the circumstances you dread so much. But I 
will not expatiate upon this mode of circumscribing the 
increase of the colored race, — the fact is universally ad- 
mitted, — nor will 1 attempt to moralize upon it. We must 
do what seems best for the occasion, and most proper 
for the future welfare of our commonwealth — leaving the 
consequences (beyond our speculation) to an all-wise and 
merciful Providence, on which we may fully rely to 
bring things to a just and happy conclusion. 

You foretell in strong language, but not too strong, the 
inevitable course of events that must befall the free negro 
population (if they blindly refuse to quit Maryland), 
when it comes fully into contact with white labor, which 
by an invariable law always comes to meet it, and never 
fails to supplant it, sooner or later. Already, as you have 
remarked, white labor has driven the black from many 
employments in New York and Philadelphia, and even 
on Fell's Point may be witnessed the same result, in 
consequence of the late rapid increase of German and 
Irish emigrants ; indeed we need only look at the last 
census to ascertain that in Baltimore the increase has 
been as 2 to 20 in favor of the whites. To my mind the 
reasons adduced by you to prove the necessity of retard- 
ing emancipation, are the very strongest to show the pro- 
priety of encouraging it, because they point out clearly 
that state of things in the vista which alone will compel 
the colored man to look to Africa, as his only hope of 
preservation and of happiness. To one who takes but 
a partial view of the relations of the two colors, and 
whose feelings of benevolence are bounded by personal 
motives and considerations, this course of action may 
seem too stern and uncompromising; but to one who 
takes a more general survey of all the premises, and truly 
desires the greatest amount of good to the greatest num- 
ber, it will I am sure appear to be the best for all the 
parties concerned. It can not be denied that the question 
is fraught with great difficulties and perplexities — but to 


my judgment, look at it in any way we please, it will be 
found that this course of procedure, in connection with 
renewed and extended efforts at Colonization, will in all 
human probability, and at no very distant period, secure 
the removal of the great body of the African people from 
our State. It appears to me the President of the Mary- 
land Colonization Society, with his usual sagacity and 
decision, points 1 to this in his address, where he says 
" the object of Colonization is to prepare a home in Af- 
rica for the free colored people of the State, to which 
they may remove when the advantages which it offers — 
and above all the pressure of irresistible circumstances in 
this country, shall excite them to emigrate." 

In proposing to countenance a gradual emancipation in 
Maryland, I propose nothing new, but merely a return to 
the ancient and time honored custom of our land ; I pro- 
pose it not only for the ultimate good it may, and I trust 
will at some future day, accomplish for the negroes 
themselves ; but especially to promote the freedom and 
independence of our own color. For who does not know 
that the slaveholder who does his duty to himself, to the 
negro, and to his community, is almost as much a slave 
as the slave himself? He certainly has far more care and 
anxiety than the negro, who seldom looks forward to the 

Nevertheless, I would at this time ask for no more 
than to sanction, by more distinct authority, that which 
almost daily takes place, as you show by the statement 
made to the commissioners of the State Colonization 
Fund, by which it appears nearly 3000 manumissions 
have taken place in the last 13 years, notwithstanding 
all the difficulties thrown in the way by legislative en- 
actments. I would merely ask that each and every 
slaveholder be permitted to exercise his own free will 
and pleasure in the matter, without fear on his part, or 
dread on that of the manumittee, of any exercise of power 
to compel him to leave the State, but that it may be 
left to time, and natural circumstances to force this issue. 
No one need dread any sudden or great additions to the 
class of free negroes, as an immediate consequence of 


such a course — as property Slaves have an established 
value, and we all know men part not with their goods 
and chattels, but by slow and measured steps. The law 
as it now stands seems to me to have an unnecessary as- 
pect of severity, to say the least of it. It effects but 
little, and evidently is not in accordance with public sen- 
timent ; this is proven by its frequent and open evasion, 
attributable no doubt to the regard which even the min- 
isters of the law entertain for the privileges of humanity. 
But on this part of the subject t desire to say as little as 
possible; it involves domestic rights and private feelings, 
and should be left to that still small voice that whispers 
to every man in his hours of calmness of reflection. 

I have thus, in as brief a space as possible, given an 
outline of what was upon my mind when I proposed, in 
my former letter to you, to consider this question in re- 
ference to its policy, humanity and self-interest; and, 
fully conscious of my inability to do it justice, my great- 
est regret is, that it has not been left to other and abler 
hands. Your opinion that it is not desirable to establish 
a paper for the diffusion of information on this question, 
has great weight with me, and I am ready to acknow- 
ledge the force of your reasons. We will therefore dis- 
miss the inquiry for the present, trusting that the little 
we have said may not be misunderstsod ; on the contrary 
that it may induce those who are intimately connected 
with Slavery to study the question, and to find out whe- 
ther any other plan, than the one suggested, can be de- 
vised to promote the prosperity and happiness of our 
native State. 

With sentiments of renewed respect, 
I remain very truly yours, 

R. S. Steuart. 




178 Market street, Baltimore. 




A neat pamphlet of 54 pages, containing much useful information to all 
rested in this important subject. Price only 12* cents. 


Author of Lectures to Young Men, Lectures on.the sphere and duties of IVomai- 
1 vol. 12mo. neatly bound in stamped cloth, gilt, $1. 


■ ; We have had ihis invaluable work upon our table for some days past, and have turnt 
its pages with both pleasure and profit, a rare thing to say sincerely of a new work, c 
this prolific age of ' literature.' The work comprises four lectures, an oration, an essa 
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but express our great gratitude that Baltimore has made so worthy an addition to i 
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uuiry in the public mind on all useful subjects, and to the not less laudable 
the sphere of literary and in the community of whicl 

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oils and polished writer — a deep and clear thinker — to need any pr; 
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generally such as do not depend for their importance on lime or p] 
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author need to be told that it is in 
ofourcity. The ' Writin lostly of lectui 

our own city, on various occasions. Mr. Burnap has 
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circulation of the excellent work now b 

larsed. The typographical which is in mi 

with gilt back, reflects great credit upon the publisher. " Odd Fellow's Mirror.